Oedipus Rex, a classic Greek play, was written almost 2500 years ago by a famous playwright named Sophocles. The play focuses on finding Laius’ killer but through the process, Oedipus finds out who he truthfully is. In Scene one lines 284-448 Oedipus is speaking to Teiresias a blind prophet, he asks Teiresias to reveal Laius’ killer. This passage has defining characteristics that are important to the play as a whole, which can be simply conveyed on stage. This passage helps develop and make the play more intriguing by showing how blind to the truth Oedipus really is.
Before the beginning of the play Oedipus saves the people of Thebes from the curse of the Sphinx and becomes king virtually overnight. He proclaims his name proudly as though it were itself a healing charm “I have come myself to hear you-/ I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name.”(Prologue 9-10) what Oedipus does not realize is that he had killed Laius son of Labdakos on the way to the Sphinx. The play is based on finding the killer of Laius. Oedipus wants justice done and for the murderer to be banished from Thebes. Oedipus does what he can to make this happen. This includes a conversation with Teiresias.
The passage starts off when a boy leads in the blind prophet Teiresias to Oedipus. Oedipus then begins to beg Teiresias to reveal who Laius’ murderer is, but Teiresias answers only that he knows the truth but wishes he did not. Puzzled at first, then angry, Oedipus insists that Teiresias tell Thebes Thebes what he knows. Provoked by the anger and insults of Oedipus, Teiresias begins to hint at his knowledge. Finally, when Oedipus furiously accuses Teiresias of the murder, Teiresias tells Oedipus that Oedipus himself is the curse on Thebes that he is in search for. Oedipus dares Teiresias to say it again, and so Teiresias calls Oedipus the murderer.
Oedipus criticizes Teiresias powers wildly and insults his blindness by saying “You child of endless night! You can not hurt me or anyone who sees the light” (Scene I, line 359-360), but Teiresias only responds that the insults will eventually be turned on Oedipus by all of Thebes. Driven into a fury by the accusation, Oedipus proceeds to concoct a story that Creon and Teiresias are conspiring to overthrow him.
The leader of the Chorus asks Oedipus to calm down, but Teiresias only taunts Oedipus further, by saying
” I can say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of your life, Nor in whose house you live, nor with whom. Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You do not even know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth and the world below.”
(Scene I, line 399-404)
This statement both infuriates and intrigues Oedipus, who asks for the truth of his parentage. Teiresias answers only in riddles, saying that the murderer of Laius will turn out to be both brother and father to his children, both son and husband to his mother. Teiresias is then led out by his page and Oedipus enters the palace.
Oedipus remains blind to the truth until he can deny it no longer. As Teiresias told Oedipus: “To the children with whom the murderer lives now he will be/ Brother and father-the very same; to her/ who bore him, son and husband- the very same.” (Scene 1, line 441-444) When it became evident to Oedipus that he had killed Laius his father and married his mother Jocasta his life took a turn for the worst. It is at this point in the play where Oedipus learns that knowledge and a vision of his past, which brings evil, pain, and suffering into his life. Oedipus is not worried just for himself but also for his children who will now have to live in shame of their father.
In the ending scenes of the play Oedipus takes Jocasta’s broach and punctures his eyes making him blind to all that was around him. This is ironic because in the passage in scene two Oedipus could see with all his eyes, but his mind was ignorant to the truth, and even though Teiresias was physically blind, he was always able to see what Oedipus refused to. The incident involving Oedipus and Teiresias shows how the power of ones mind can far exceed any physical ability of knowing the truth.
Within this scene there are many different ways the script can be interpreted. Sophocles is not to explicit with written stage direction so there is room for some imagination. The scene starts off with Oedipus in centre stage and Teiresias being led to him by a page. Oedipus costuming is elaborate and of many colours, while Teiresias is a simple man dressed in brown, with a cane used to help guide him. Oedipus is higher on stage then Teiresias it is almost as if Oedipus is speaking down to Teiresias. During their conversation, Oedipus becomes desperate to find the murderer of Lauis and slowly comes down from the stage closer to Teiresias. As Oedipus is doing this his fate is slowly being diminished. He is slowly walking towards the truth that Teiresias holds.
When Teiresias tells Oedipus the truth that he is in search for Oedipus becomes upset and says to Teiresias “Damnation/ Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight!” (Scene I, line 418-419) Oedipus would start to show his power at this point by forcing himself on Teiresias and throwing his hands in the air displaying his anger. Teiresias being blind would not see all of this anger. As Oedipus gets fed up with the situation he asks for Teiresias to leave and enters the palace.
Even though this play was written 2500 years ago, Oedipus Rex is still a play in which one can relate to. Many people in society today are blind when is comes to their past and to certain events which affects them in a negative way. People think that the only was to conquer this blindness is to seek out the truths that they are looking for, whether it is in their past or their present. Oedipus’ conversation with Teiresias has the defining characteristics of blindness and sight that help develop the play as a whole. The script does not give much stage direction which leaves room for the reader to use their imagination. All these components of the passage add to the understanding of the passage and the play as a whole.
Courtney from Study Moose
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